Prioritising Agri-Tech to Attain Self-Sufficiency in Food Production

There is no better time than now for economic managers to prioritise investment into agriculture technology in their bid to boost Nigeria’s capacity to meet its food demands. Gilbert Ekugbe writes.

If there is any lesson to take from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, it is that attaining food security and food self-sufficiency are serious challenges across many cities and regions. The challenge posed by the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe followed the shocks that were experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and increasing severe weather events that had been driven by climate change.

Nigeria with a population of over 200 million can no longer depend on hoes and cutlasses to feed itself as a nation. The country on an annual basis spends $22 billion on food importation, a situation that leaves much to be desired for a country that is blessed with natural and abundant resources capable of making it the food basket on the continent.

Regrettably, Nigeria is on the brink of food scarcity with food prices soaring beyond reach of consumers. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), on a month-on-month basis, food inflation rate in July was 2.04 per cent, 0.01 per cent insignificant decline compared to the rate recorded in June 2022 2.05 per cent.

Although the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), reported that the food price index averaged 140.9 points in July, down 13.3 points 8.6 per cent from June, marking the fourth consecutive monthly decline, but unlike Nigeria, food inflation has continued to surge in Nigeria for the fifth straight month.

The international organisation noted that the July decline was the steepest monthly fall in the value of the index since October 2008, led by significant drops in vegetable oil and cereal indices, while those of sugar, dairy and meat also fell but to a lesser extent.

Agri-Tech to the rescue

There is an urgent need to produce a lot more with a lot less, and also the need to give nature some breathing space to bring it back from the point of no return. Efficiency measures such as increasing crop yield and decreasing resource use per unit of output can take the nation’s agricultural sector only so far. Research in crop genetics is key to creating improvements in the quality, nutritional value, yield, resource-use efficiency and resilience of the crops. .

However, the next ‘green revolution’ has begun slowly, but with powerful momentum. An agricultural technology revolution that promises to produce more with less, decouple food production from environmental degradation and provide food security by ‘crashing’ supply chains and producing locally.

Agricultural technology or agro technology is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability. Agricultural technology can be products, services or applications derived from agriculture that improve various input/output processes.

One of the challenges facing farmers today is the need to meet labour demands and with labour costs on the high, farmers can reduce cost by over 50 per cent deploying the combination of harvesters and planters to simplify their processes with even quality and greater yields. For a country like Nigeria, the benefits of modern technology adoption in agriculture cannot be over emphasised, there is need for increased crop productivity, reduced impact on natural ecosystems, increased worker safety, decreased use of water, fertilizers and pesticides.

There are also concerns over the safety of food from farm to table as it passes through different forms of processing. Handling of agriculture produce is key as many farmers are still depending on harmful substances to preserve their crops, but with the use of crop sensors, it makes it easier for farmers to effectively apply fertilizers and pesticides, as much as the amount needed for crops to grow healthily.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), technology is needed to transform agrifood systems, and with associated knowledge drives sustainable development, pointing out that for success, deployment of technologies needs to be accompanied by enabling social, political and institutional factors. Investments in human capital through capacity building are also required.


Agricultural biotechnologies encompasses a suite of technologies from low-tech ones such as artificial insemination, fermentation techniques, biofertilizers and nuclear techniques, to high-tech ones involving advanced DNA-based methodologies (including Genetic Modification (GM), genomic selection, whole genome sequencing and gene editing) and multi-omics technologies.

They have wide-ranging uses and possibilities including, inter alia, crops adapted to biotic and abiotic stresses, nutritionally enhanced and longer lasting foods with reduced losses, reduction of allergens, food borne disease detection, food safety surveillance, monitoring of genetic diversity and biodiversity, phyto remediation and improved soil health, efficient use of nutrients in feed by animals, rapid diagnosis of diseases and development of vaccines.

Globally, people waste one-third of all food produced for human consumption, or 1.3 billion tonnes, each year. Producers and consumers toss edible and spoiled food all along the supply chain. Most of it ends up in landfills where it leaches methane gas for months, if not years. However, if the world could reduce its food waste by just 25 per cent, there would be enough to end world hunger.

Everyone has a major role to play in reversing food waste, including innovators and problem solvers. Thanks to them, several new agriculture technologies are already hard at work minimising unnecessary and avoidable waste. These promising inventions are paving the way for a greener, more sustainable tomorrow.

Soil Sensors

A soil moisture sensor is a device that measures current soil moisture. Sensors integrated into the irrigation system aid in scheduling water supply and distribution much more efficiently. Such gauges help to reduce or enhance irrigation for optimum plant growth.

Over 15 per cent of food is lost before leaving the farm. This waste is often a byproduct of slaughter operations and produce lost during harvesting. However, soil climate can also play a major role in crop disease, death and loss.

Nowadays, plenty of agri-tech gadgets come with soil sensors to gather data and keep fields healthy, from self-moving tractors to underground plant health monitors. They allow farmers to identify which areas need treatment based on water penetration and nutrient levels.

Smart Packaging and Storage

Active and smart packaging and modified atmosphere processing are hot trends in agri-tech these days. These rather recent innovations preserve food during the processing and distribution stage and give many items a longer shelf life.

Dynamic Pricing Algorithms

Price instability due to erratic supply, seasonality, and information disparity is the fundamental issue of the agricultural commodity market. To achieve quality returns from investment, sellers must quote the optimal price of the products. The key to digital market success for an agro-seller is a continually adjusting dynamic pricing mechanism that adapts to the market fluctuations.

Smart packaging remains important in extending shelf life at the point-of-sale and in-home levels. However, dynamic pricing algorithms can further reduce food waste if companies properly implement them. Essentially, this solution allows retailers to update and display discount prices on items nearing expiration. Similar software has also made its way into restaurants, where it helps chefs identify which dishes are least popular and thus, produce the most waste.

Minimising food waste

Food wastage has severe effects on the entire food value chain. If the waste ends up in landfills, it releases methane (greenhouse gas) and produces 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. It results in global warming and becomes even more harmful for climate change.

Changes in consumer demands have led to a transformation in the food and beverage industry, with demand for fast, affordable, and readily available food options. The industry has come up with innovative ideas and has started deploying advanced traceability and predictive technologies.

Deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions aid in managing wastes, scale-up operations, and stay relevant in a dynamic market environment of the food industry. AI can solve this problem and unlock $127 billion opportunities by reducing food waste by 2030, starting with regenerative agricultural practices.

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut solution to minimising food waste. Countries and regions face various needs and, therefore, require different approaches.

What is more, agri-tech is still in its infancy, which means many technologies are still too expensive to produce on a larger scale. Innovators and farmers need more funding from federal agencies and private investors to take the next steps.

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